Let the reader seriously consider the evidence submitted in the previous chapter, and we think he will be satisfied that there is Divine authority for saying that the principles, of which the following facts are the realisation, were in practical operation in the Apostolic Church:-
- The office-bearers were chosen by the people.
- The office of bishop and elder was identical.
- There was a plurality of elders in each Church.
- Ordination was the act of a presbytery – that is, of a plurality of elders.
- There was the privilege of appeal to the assembly of elders; and the power of government was exercised by them in their associate capacity.
- The only Head of the Church was the Lord Jesus Christ.
The principles embodied in these six facts cover the whole platform of Church Government, each rising in importance above that which precedes it, in an ascending series, from Popular Election up to the Headship of the Lord. We have been conducted to them, not by any process of wiredrawn logic, but by receiving the Scriptures, as we think every child of God should receive them, except there be manifest and good reasons to the contrary, in the plain, simple, and natural sense. The most unlettered reader, if he be only unprejudiced and honest, cannot examine the passages of Scripture we have specified, and fail to see that these six great principles were all embodied in the government of the Apostolic Church.
But whether they are embodied in those forms of ecclesiastical government at present existing in the world is another and a very important question – a question which it is now our business to answer. We proceed, therefore, to bring the existing systems in succession to the test of the apostolic standard.